AGCO prohibits use of pro athletes to advertise, market igaming in Ontario

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TORONTO — The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has banned the use of athletes in the advertising and marketing of internet gaming in Ontario.

The AGCO announced Tuesday it has updated the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming to prohibit the use of athletes. It also strengthened the standards to restrict the use of celebrities who would likely be expected to appeal to minors.

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The new restrictions will come into effect Feb. 28, 2024.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, track star Andre DeGrasse and current NHL stars Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are among the athletes who have appeared in ads for gambling sites.

“Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to,” Tom Mungham, the AGCO’s registrar and CEO, said in a statement., “We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario.”

The restrictions aren’t surprising. In April, the AGCO held consultations on its proposal for the ban and receive submissions from a host of stakeholders, including public- and mental-health organizations, gambling experts, gaming operations and the public.

In its report Tuesday, the AGCO said its proposal “comes after significant criticism from advocates, experts and parents about the notable rise of online gambling advertisements, especially during live sports.

“For example, during a 2023 playoff series game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, nearly eight and a half minutes of advertisements were dedicated to online sport gambling.”

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Sports betting became legal in Canada in August, 2021. Ontario became the first province to launch an open, regulated igaming market in April 2022.

Ontario operators can’t advertise or provide marketing materials outlining gambling inducements, bonuses and credits. However before Tuesday’s announcement, there were no limits

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Ontario Proposes Ban on Using Athletes and Celebrities in iGaming Advertising | Bennett Jones LLP

Key Takeaways

  • AGCO proposes banning the use of athletes and celebrities from internet gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario.
  • Comments can be submitted to AGCO until May 8, 2023.
  • New rules would be implemented three months after being finalized.
  • Operators and suppliers should consider the implications of the proposed ban on their existing marketing strategies.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is proposing to prohibit the use of athletes and celebrities from internet gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario. The AGCO says the goal is to further minimize potential harm to youth and children.

The announcement was made on April 13, 2023. The AGCO said it had, “identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes.”

The proposed amended standard will:

  1. create an obligation for operators and suppliers to cease any advertising and marketing activities that use athletes, whether active or retired, in gaming marketing and advertising; and,
  2. prohibit the use of cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers who are reasonably expected to appeal to minors. This proposed amendment differs from the current standard, which is applicable to persons that “primarily appeal” to minors. Advertising remains a permitted activity, provided other standards are met.

Stakeholders can provide comments on the proposed changes until May 8, 2023 through the AGCO’s engagement portal. Operators and suppliers would have three months to comply with the final standard—it would take effect three months following its publication on the AGCO website.

Ontario’s iGaming market was launched on April 4, 2022—see our previous blog, Advertising and Marketing in Ontario’s New iGaming Market: Update for Private Operators, for more details. From the outset, the AGCO said it would assess and update the regulatory

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